Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are just opinions; your mileage may vary. I invite you to tell me to your point of view…in fact it’s the goal.
While trying to claw my way to the top of Maslow’s triangle of needs (see photo), I have done a lot of pondering about identity.
i·den·ti·ty: the distinct personality of an individual regarded as a persisting entity.
What defines you, if anything? Here are the answers I most commonly witness:
YOUR JOB. Hey, it’s the American way. Work really hard, buy lots of stuff. If you are lucky enough to get paid to do something you truly enjoy, you should feel very fortunate. If not, you are in good company. No job is great every day, in every way, but are you miserable? Can you change jobs? Or change your attitude? If you work all the time on a regular basis with no end in sight (busting ass for a finite period to pay off credit cards, buy specific big ticket items, save for a vacation, etc, understandable), why is this the set up? Taking pride in how you make a living can be very fulfilling, even if you have a job you don’t particularly like, there is satisfaction to be derived by doing it as well as you can, regardless. But I’d venture to guess that no one goes to their deathbed saying they wished they would have worked more, at least no one I want to hang out with.
YOUR SPOUSE/SIGNIFICANT OTHER. If you’ve made your better half responsible for your happiness, you’ve relinquished something that is your responsibility and given them a shitty job, one where they’re destined to let you down. In my perfect world, your partner is your best friend that you get to sleep with (score!) that also props you up when you’re down, believes in your potential and does everything they can do to help you realize your dreams. Perhaps you have a different definition…but if you’re in a committed relationship, ask yourself how far off is your current situation from your ultimate ideal? Is your ideal fair and reasonable? What can YOU do to make it as good as it can be?
From Alain de Botton: "Every fall into love involves the triumph of hope over self-knowledge. We fall in love hoping we won't find in another what we know is in ourselves, all the cowardice, weakness, laziness, dishonesty, compromise, and stupidity. We throw a cordon of love around the chosen one and decide that everything within it will somehow be free of our faults. We locate inside another a perfection that eludes us within ourselves, and through our union with the beloved hope to maintain (against the evidence of all self-knowledge) a precarious faith in our species."
I guess the upshot of that is to be clear about what you need, but go easy with your expectations.
YOUR CHILDREN: Territory where I’m going to tread VERY lightly, as I don’t have children and never will. I do feel it’s the most important and the hardest job that a person can have. I’ve met a lot of your children….they, like you, are smart and funny and delightful and completely worthy of your adoration. But you can ask my mother, one day you will not be able to get them to go to a real college, you’ll come up with some half assed tech school compromise and after graduation they’ll run away and start bartending on top of Mount Bumfuck, JUST TO PISS YOU OFF. Not really, but to a certain extent it’s their job to NOT listen to you and make their own (stupid) decisions. Rest assured, things will still turn out fine.
YOUR HOBBIES: Having pastimes that you enjoy is a kick ass way to express yourself. But are they compromising your relationship with your job, your partner, your children? It’s your time, if you want to spend a million hours playing Farmville, have at it. I’m not judging, I enjoy a lot of guilty pleasures. But take a moment to consider what you’re choosing to do as well as what you’re choosing not to do and why.
At this point you’re probably thinking “Where on Earth does Miss Thing have all this time and energy to be telling me what to do with my life?” It really all comes from not having a partner or children, on top of having a job that I do just enough to get by, a job where I am delightfully replaceable. Am I envious of your relationships, your children, your super careers? Sometimes. But I’ve chosen to be excited about the cards I was dealt most of the time. I have opted to surround myself with wonderful, supportive people who have time and enthusiasm for me, which I am honored to reciprocate. I’ve found it to be the key to a happy life. Not every day in every way, but enough to keep me working my way up the triangle, having the time of my life doing it. I have far more questions than I have answers, but that's what keeps life interesting.